JNF UK won't back Yachad

JNF UK has refused to back a campaign to halt the eviction of a Palestinian family from a house in East Jerusalem, saying the protests aid the demonisation of Israel.

Yachad, the alternative Israel advocacy group, appealed to JNF to intervene to prevent the removal of the Sumarin family in Silwan.

The Israeli courts have ruled that the property belongs to Himnuta, a subsidiary of Keren Kayemeth Le'Israel, which has been seeking the family's eviction since 1991. JNF UK has no connection with the site but is the main fundraiser for KKL projects in Britain.

According to Yachad, the eviction, which was due to have take place on Monday but delayed by KKL, has the "ability to inflame an already volatile neighbourhood". It said that "the transfer of a property into the hands of Himnuta for the purposes of replacing a Palestinian family with a Jewish family, within a Palestinian neighbourhood, is likely to exacerbate tensions and spark a new round of violence".

It added: "The policy of 'Judaising' Arab neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem makes the possibility of sharing Jerusalem in a final status agreement a harder goal to achieve."

But JNF UK chairman Samuel Hayek hit back, saying that his charity was "not involved with this dispute. The courts in Israel have made their decision and it is not for us to interfere."

He continued: "We are disappointed that Yachad has thought it prudent to describe the outcome of this court case as proof of Israel's 'policy of Judaising Jerusalem'. This is a lie that gives a great deal of legitimacy to those who seek to demonise the state of Israel and dehumanise the Jewish people."

Yachad's campaign, he said, had been "endorsed by a number of anti-Israel organisations and the Palestinian diplomatic mission in the UK, thus contributing towards delegitimisation. The actual facts of the case paint a rather different picture to the demagogic interpretation provided by Yachad."

According to Yachad, the 12-member family, including five children and a pregnant mother, had lived in the house since before 1967. After the owner died in 1983, the house passed to Israel's Custodian of Absentee Property because the man's three sons were living in enemy Arab countries. The land was subsequently transferred to another state agency, the Development Authority, and then acquired by Himnuta.

Last updated: 12:16pm, December 1 2011